Hunters Point library on hold as new plans drawn up

Hunters Point library on hold as new plans drawn up
By Bill Parry

Residents of the Hunters Point section of Long Island City will have to wait longer for their public library — perhaps several years.

Groundbreaking for the 21,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art waterfront library was supposed to take place last summer with completion scheduled for 2015, but now the entire project is in limbo.

In a letter to Friends of Queens Library at Hunters Point, Thomas Gallante, the beleaguered president and CEO of Queens Library, wrote that the building project was vastly under-budget at $28.6 million with a construction budget of just $23 million. When construction bids came in, they ranged from $33 million to $42 million.

Gallante wrote of “the overall complexity of the design and several unique, difficult to source, or expensive to procure, interior and design features.” Celebrity architect Steven Holl’s plans were too elaborate, with features that included a rooftop terrace, gardens and a gallery, he said. If and when the library is built on the parcel of land at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue, next to Gantry Plaza State Park, it will not resemble the original plans.

In the letter, Gallante said there would be significant design changes. Gone is the Geothermal Well system in favor of a more traditional heating and cooling system. The aluminum exterior facade will now be cement and glass and custom interior fixtures are replaced with standard fixtures. In all, the changes save $4.7 million.

The entire project will be open to rebids by “a new and more extensive list of contractors,” Gallante. wrote.

In the meantime, residents will be relieved to know that the Queens Library of Court Square will be expanding, thanks to space donated by Citibank. The branch, on the ground floor of the Citibank Building at 25-01 Jackson Ave., will add 1,200 square feet to its current 2,000 square feet.

“Citibank had some unused space and gave it to us because they like to be a good corporate neighbor,” said Joanne King, Queens Library director of communications. “They are very aware that there is an explosion of young families in the Court Square neighborhood.”

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chairman of the Council’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, said, “The expansion of the Court Square community library, along with our continued efforts to build a new state-of-the-art library in Hunters Point, help reinforce our commitment to providing the growing community of Long Island City with the essential programs and services it deserves.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.